Friday, March 14, 2014

The Trouble With Anyone Giving Parenting Advice...

I've been a parent now for going on 13 years, though I suppose you could make the argument that it's actually been a few more years than that - if you were to tack on my pregnancy before my oldest was born, and perhaps even the ill-fated pregnancy that ended before that one.

I've seen things, you guys.

I've carried bleeding kids into the ER.

I've been on the phone with Children's at 3am while a child hemorrhaged from an allergic reaction (that one was NOT fun, by the way).

I've held three of them in an operating room as the anesthesia took them under, watching in horror as their faces went blank and their eyes rolled back (seriously, I don't recommend it unless you really think you need to be in there).

I've stayed up all night watching them breathe.

I've been raged at, attacked, hit and kicked. I've been screamed at. I've been the soft place to land and paid dearly for it more than once.

I've dealt with allegies, asthma, mental illness, adhd in multiple forms, and a whole laundry list of other things.

And even still, I wouldn't presume to tell another parent how to raise their child.

The problem is that we live in a society where new parents believe they must seek guidance about everything. From the moment of conception almost, they are surrounded by the experts who tell them what is best, what is wrong, what is safe, what is dangerous, what is the only way to properly raise a child.

There are as many ways to raise a child as there are children in the world.

There is no set of guidelines or criteria or rules that could possibly ever apply to siblings in the same household, let alone children from different families in different areas from different backgrounds. It's a fallacy to believe that there ever could be.

And yet, the experts want us to believe that there is, because it is what sells books. It is what feeds this incessant need of ours as parents to believe that we are doing the right thing. It is what fosters this bizarre societal insistence that one way is better than another and leads to parents judging one another rather than supporting one another.

One of those experts wrote a post last week about how electronic devices are ruining our children, in a top ten list format, supposedly backed up with all kinds of evidence of why she is right and why any parent who allows access to these things is wrong. She went so far as to say that handheld devices should be banned because of her assertions.



The trouble is that while excessive use of devices, or electronics of any variety, certainly comes with negative consequences...so does anything.

Literally.

Too much of anything is detrimental. You can even die of water intoxication. 

What is lacking in our society today is any level of awareness of moderation. The experts cling to the outliers as evidence that they are right about alleging these harms, and certainly there may be cases where they are right. The truth is though, that I am a skeptic.  I simply don't believe that the average child is consuming 8-10 hours a day of electronics as she alleges.

I don't.

Are there some? Perhaps there are, but they aren't any children that I know. Doing the math, on a weekday where school is in session, even if we assume that the child has access to a computer for an hour a day at school (which is on the high side), that would mean that they spent 7-9 additional hours outside of school watching television, on a phone, tablet or computer. My kids don't get home until 4pm and they go to bed by 9. The math simply makes the numbers she alleges impossible.

But bigger numbers seem more impressive, more daunting, more impacting. The higher the amount of time she can accuse us of parking our children in front of screens, the less attentive we are, the less involved we are, the more horrible parents we are, and the more we are inevitably failing our children.

Never mind that the math doesn't even work. She's probably not concerned about accuracy or averages, she just wants to scare us. 

You also might want to be made aware of the fact that the woman who wrote this article is selling a product to you to help you manage your children's time better. First though, she must convince you that you need it.

I told you I was a skeptic.

Should children spend all day in front of a screen? Of course not.

Should parents be trusted to moderate their usage? Yes.

Should so-called experts have to reveal their ulterior motives whilst shaming parents? Absolutely.

Look, I'm not out of touch. The world we live in now is a technology based one. There aren't even textbooks in many schools anymore because everything is online these days. Reality is that electronics are going to be a part of the lives of our children. We can choose to educate ourselves, embrace the advances, parent the children we have and make our own choices OR we can listen to experts with financial agendas who seem hellbent on scaring us into submission.

Your choice.

I should confess that one of my children learned to read because she wanted to sing on the Rockband game. That child is now reading four grades above grade level.

I should confess that one of my children is already writing code that I can't even comprehend.

I should confess that one of my children, who quite literally cannot focus on actual books, can read on a Kindle much better and easier.

I should confess that we purchased a Leapfrog device for my youngest to help him learn. He's a very tech saavy kid and will spend far more time with that than he ever would sitting and reading.

As parents, we have to do what works for us, what works for our kids. Sometimes that might mean embracing technology, and that is okay.

I promise, you aren't ruining your kids.

5 comments:

  1. My daughter got a nabi for christmas which is kind of like a kid's version of an iPad. I recommend it to every parent I know. She loves doing puzzles, matching letters, coloring, playing nick jr games etc on it. She only plays it at home, so max two hours a day. She is a lot more verbal now (she's three) and she is learning rapidly so many things I hadn't been able to get her to learn before. I love technology, and as you said, I keep it limited. Someone saying that that isn't okay, clearly never had a non verbal toddler, lol.

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  2. Her stats are SO inflated. I have a Child Development degree and understand the caution of setting a toddler in front of a TV, but sometimes that happens.

    Parents need to interact with their kids. Tech should be the exception and a treat. Her "ails" of society are so bloated, a beached whale is more attractive.

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  3. "As parents, we have to do what works for us, what works for our kids." Every family is unique among itself when raising children. You raise your children as to what is in their best interests. You do the very best you can and it appears you are doing a great job.

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  4. "Are there some? Perhaps there are, but they aren't any children that I know."

    There ARE. Just because you don't know of any, doesn't mean they don't exist. Because I know of at least one. But, yeah, I don't like someone giving advice when they don't have all their facts or give advice based upon only what they know.

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  5. I am teaching my three year old everything I can about technology. I want her to be able to use a computer. She plays games on my nook. She understands how a cell phone works. People are so worried about what technology is doing to our kids, but that doesn't mean technology isn't going to be in their future. It's already here and not going away. I want her to be able to use it as well as she can. I think a lot of it is fear. People always complain about the next generation. I was talking to a friend recently about my daughter watching TV and worrying about it being too much. He's in his 70's and he laughed. One of his daughters was obsessed with TV as a child. Now she works for George Lucas doing special effects. She was at the Oscars this year! For some reason that made me feel less anxious. Probably because it's proof that if my daughter watches Sesame St. and Peg + Cat in the same day it doesn't mean she's a completely ruined human being.

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